Sunday, September 30, 2007

This Olde House - Part 4.5

I decided to take most of the weekend off from construction work. I'm just burned out. Between the kids and the house and the job and working out, I needed some time to decompress.

The only thing I did this weekend was rip up the tile under the washer and dryer and 'fridge. I thought it was going to be a simple affair. I thought wrong. Very wrong.

It took my father and I forty five minutes to dash up a dozen tiles. Both of us with hammers and chisels and crowbars. Especially difficult to get it out of the corners. Bad angles. Didn't want to bash up the walls. So our backs paid the price. And I had a huge throbbing blister on my right forefinger within an hour.

And that was only a dozen tiles.

I'm gonna rent out some kind of jackhammer or at least a sledge hammer. That tile was a beast.

There's at least another six dozen to go. Between now and next Friday. And I haven't even started to think about the demo on the small bathroom.

My achin' back.

Friday, September 28, 2007

MOVIE: Eastern Promises

It is a grim omen when your movie begins with a hemorrhage. Eastern Promises starts with a torrent of blood and continues the flow for nigh on two hours. Gritty. Remorseless. And untroubled by anything clean or sane. It's a disease of a movie, slowly gasping out its last breaths until it has nothing left to give.

I think it was about counter-balances. It all begins with a violent death, the end of a life. On to a dying mother and the struggles of her child as it fights for life. A feeble newborn, slick with her mother's blood. One character is a nurse (who tries to bring people health) and a mid-wife (bringing new lives into the world.) The other main character is referred to as an undertaker (preparing the dead for the next world) and a Russian thug (bringing anything but health to several people.) The love and forgiveness of family members contrasted against the loyalty and dedication of an organized crime family. The two worlds co-mingle while conflicting on multiple levels.

One character's loss is another character's gain. And in the end, there is always some form of balance. At least that's what I think it was trying to express.

Short version? Good flick if you don't mind the rough edges. But you're put off by violence, nudity, or rampant vulgarity, you may want to skip this one.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Vegan vmail

Left on my voicemail:
"Hey, Daddy. It's Liam. I tried salad today. Mommy made me one. With cheese and Goldfish. It tasted like leaves. I tried ranch dressing, too. It tasted pretty good. I dipped my fork in it. And had three bites. Anyway, call me. Or talk to me when you get home. I had salad. I love you. It's Liam. Bye!"

How does he know what leaves taste like?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Wounded

Cindy inflicted a pretty gnarly flesh wound upon herself today. She was cleaning up some of the debris from the gap in the master bathroom, when she brushed up against a jagged piece of tile. By jagged, I mean "sharp enough to slice right through her."

I dashed home. Her mom dashed her to a nearby clinic. The doctor stopped the bleeding and doused her with some Superglue. So she lucked out and didn't get any stitches. And we both lucked out because I guess the doctor had a crush on her and decided not to bill her. If he had, it would have been $300 for the use of his eagle eye and a couple of drops of glue.

If a clinic can get a hundred bucks per drop of adhesive, I'm in the wrong business! Nothing like making a tidy profit off the wounded.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sweaty return

For the first time since I started renovating the house, I managed to slip into the gym. Felt great! Pilates went pretty well. Except for the stretching I did before class. I've lost soooooo much flexibility that I'm almost too embarrassed to being attempting some of the moves.

But it all started to click again once I fired up the iPod and hit the free weights. Lots of reps. Lots of sets. Lots of difference exercises. Chest and triceps. Everything worked out better than I planned and I imagine I'll be back in full force next week.

I wrapped it up with a 3.5 mile run/job on the treadmill. I didn't really get up to full speed, but only halfway through, I was perspiring like the fat bastard that I am

It was quite a sweat return.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My kingdom for a nap

"Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking. " ~Clifton Fadiman

Sleep never came. For the second night in a row. What came were endless obsessive diagrams and schematics. Over and over. Plans for building M.C. Escher-esque walls and corners. Impossible designs that I had to unravel and construct in my living room. And as the night continued its slow endless creep toward morning, I couldn't stop the thoughts. I couldn't snap out of maddening fugue state.

I couldn't put the pieces together. I couldn't make them edges meet. And though I know I wasn't awake, I don't think I slept.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Our little narc

An actual email bouncing around the household:

From: Liam McDougal
Date: Sep 18, 2007 4:01 PM
Subject: Meg chewing
To: Cindy McDougal
Dear Mom, Meg was chewing on her ponytail holder and now it is all

Couple of thoughts:
  1. The boy is 8, and he's emailing tips to his mother?
  2. Slobbery?
  3. Where was Meg while he was composing this bit of prosecution?
  4. Why didn't he CC his Daddy???

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This Olde House - Part 4

Another fun filled weekend. By fun, of course, I mean "Back breaking manual labor and trying to convince Cindy to chill out and trust me on this whole "renovation" thing.

Per the new norm: Click any picture to enlarge.

The living room and dining room have been primed with two coats of drywall primer. Five gallons of the stuff. We are glad to be rid of the red wall panels! Now, the wait between stages of the project isn't nearly as bad, since we don't have to suffer through crimson walls burning our retinas.

Cindy went ahead started painting the ceiling in the living room. I gotta admit, at first I didn't think we needed to burn cycles on the ancient popcorn. But once Cindy started rolling it on, the difference was staggering. Check the photos, but we didn't have a white ceiling, we had a gray one! Not for long, though. Cindy put her back into it and covered up the haggard old thing. Quick note: popcorn ceilings suck up paint at a phenomenal rate. Two gallons for just one room!

After Cindy cleared some space, I whipped out the rollers and dropped the big green hammer. Check the furniture all covered in plastic. Loads of fun there, too. We pretty much haven't been able to use the living room for two weeks. But that just helps encourage us.

Anyway, the green paint went down pretty slowly. It's a fairly dark color and any thin areas showed up quickly. I'd start rolling new lines and notice old places where I hadn't put it down thick enough. So I'd roll back over that a couple of times. Two steps forward, one step back. But once it was down, nobody would ever know the horror of the red wood panel walls!

Of course you can't keep the kids under wraps for too long. And it was only a matter of time before they came up for air. Which means they fired up the Nag Machine and switched into Full Auto Fire mode with "I Wanna Paint!" and "Can I Paint!" A few thousand rounds later, I had to give in to the fullisade. First up was Ms Meg. Couple of the finer details from the picture: 1) Check the safety glasses that Cindy made her wear, 2) She's barefoot and still wearing her PJs, 3) Check my sharp flipflops!, 4) Yes, I'm sweating like a stuck hog, paintin' hard work! Anyway, she slapped down a couple lines of the green paint and quickly grew bored.

As you can imagine, The Boy didn't want to be left out of the equation. He threw on some shoes and joined us on the front line. By this time, I'm about half way done with the living room. He had the floors covered with paper so I left him go to town. He did a pretty good job and stuck it out longer than his sister did. Unfortunately the picture doesn't do any justice to the scope and magnitude of his Bed Head. The whole mass of his hair was pretty much one fluffy cow lick, but it doesn't show up very well. It looked like he'd stuck his toe in a light socket!

Once the kids were spent, Cindy wrapped up the ceiling and I wrapped up the walls. Here's a shot of the long wall with the windows. No more panels. No more Little House On The Prairie casings. It does look a bit TOO green, but the white of the windows and the white of the crown molding will offset everything. Fix up that old ass door one day, too!

Several hours after we got started. And here's the opposite wall, with Lady McD tidying up the mess. Her safety glasses came off long ago. And check her favorite Braves shirt. See the green paint? Heh heh heh. The back is even worse. I don't think that one will see the light of day in public again.

And that's our weekend. Painting, painting, and more painting. Next steps: level the floor in the dining room, rip up the old tiles, put down the new tiles, and new molding for everyone.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Had a really bad ending to a conversation with a friend of mine today. Most unexpected. One of those twisted Stephen King endings complete with green peals of lightning and exploding corpses and all manner of villainy that I never saw coming. One minute we're discussing the endless woes of parenting, and then next it looks like I'm going to get violated by a wine bottle.

For me, exit stage left. I've exceeded my drama threshold.

However it did reinforce a tenant of mine: I chose to define myself by the way I overcome my problems than to define myself by my problems.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This Olde House - Part 3.5

Some early mid-demo shots of the bathrooms. We're not planning on doing much with these in the short term future, but since I have a dumpster ($250/month!) in my driveway for only two more weeks, we decided to go ahead and get under way with some of the work.

First shot is the current Master Bathroom. The gaping hole is the former home of a 1960's gas-powered wall heater. Point of conjecture here. I'm not sure exactly which Southern Mississippi this house used to be in, but the one it is in now has Winters that are so cold we usually wear shorts up to Christmas. And in thirty years it has snowed down here a grand total of... um... TWICE! So I imagine the heater saw action less than a dozen times since Nixon took ofice. And speaking of the 60s, check out the sweet color scheme we have in here. Yellow tile, green fixtures, and a white linoluem floor. One day, dear friends, one day I'll breathe new life into this humble salon.

Second shot is the smaller bathroom off of the Master Bedroom. Aside from the lovely hole (yes, another heater!) of interest we have pink flooring, powder blue tiles, mustard yellow walls, and a fine fine fine wooden toilet seat. News flash: pee & wood are not the best of friends! Anyway, we barely use this bathroom and never shower in it. So I'm going to go ahead and demo the whole thing and get it ready for an overhaul once the living room and dining room are completed.

Any progress is good progress, in my book.

MOVIE: Dragon Wars

About once a month, the Sci-Fi Channel hauls out a really nasty, low-budget crapfest composed of grotesque acting, pitiful dialogue, and insane plotlines. Fortunately, those shows are free and I can change the channel.

The fact that I not only paid to see this movie, but that I didn't walk out after the first fifteen minutes speaks poorly to my intelligence and theatrical tastes.

The plot was limp. Liam & I couldn't have been more confused. Fortunately, Liam got to eat popcorn, the last 10 minutes had some fairly interesting special effects, and it was a short movie.

Final verdict? One of the characters said said best: "What are you talking about?" Unless you're into Korean folklore and half-ass acting, keep away, keep away, keep away!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MOVIE: 3:10 To Yuma

My father and I caught the evening show. Just the two of us. My brother, Jason, was supposed to join us. But he backed out. We missed him.

I can't say I saw the original 3:10 To Yuma. (Considering it was from something like 1957!) And I can't say I'm a big fan of Westerns. But I do like Russel Crowe. And I'm a big fan of Christian Bale.

The acting saved the flick. The writing wasn't bad, but it was predictable in some places and over done in others. And it rapidly degraded to a full blown shoot-em-up in the final minutes. Complete with a horde of villains expending hundreds of rounds against a hero that can effortlessly dispose of a dozen of them with pin point accuracy simultaneously running across rooftops on horseback and rustling cattle.

Good characterizations, great direction, and gorgeous settings. But it required too much of a willing suspension of disbelief. And I couldn't relax enough to enjoy the movie while suspending so much.

Final verdict? Worth renting to see the "extras" but no reason to pay more to see it on the full screen. Unless you're a Western fanatic...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Counting my blessings

Cindy drove up to Jackson yesterday, for a Nurses' conference. I woke up with the children and did the dance: make the bed, get dressed, get fed, make lunches, brush teeth, and be nice to Daddy while he throws off the fog of sleep.

It made me realize how fortunate I am to have Cindy. The kids are great, but they're a handful. And they're usually filling Cindy's hands each morning.

And that's on top of tending to the house, shopping for the groceries, and fixing dinner.

I should count my blessings more often.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Here there be pain

I don't know how. I don't know why. But I can barely walk. Maybe it was the squatting in the attic. Maybe it was the demo work. Maybe hauling sheet rock. I dunno. I just know it hurts.

I'd ache when I had to get out of my chair. I'd winch as I'd walk to get something to eat. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Like a gang of really angry midgets punching me in the quads.

And since I pretty much didn't get more than three hours of sleep last night, there's pain and there's exhaustion. And there is little else.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This Olde House - Part 3

Eighteen more hours of work on the house. This time we dropped the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. And put up a 14" header. Something to match the one we blew out last week.

Couple of pictures to mark the occasion. (Click them to enlarge, I think.) The first is the "before" shot. The cabinet is going to come out. The wall is going to come out. And there is a large standing cabinet barely visible on the left that is going to come out. As a bit of foreshadowing, the big Spanish tiles on the floor (along with the huge grout lines) are next on the hit list.

The next shot (click to enlarge?) is half way through the demo process. We removed the cabinet and most of the sheet rock. Now, exposed for the first time in probably a decade, you can see the original color of the wood panels. I think it is pea green. Darker than lime. Lighter than grass.

Those are wooden tongue-and-groove boards we're about to smash. They were as hard as rock. "Seasoned" Dad said. "Old," I said. I wish I could have re-used them, but I beat them silly and they're resting outside in the dumpster.

Last shot (click to enlarge!) is the finished product. The goal was to open the space and create a natural flow between the kitchen and the dining room. So there's now a 14" high by 144" wide header where there used to be a wall. Mission accomplished?

In the background of the second and third shots, you can see the results of our adventures last week: lots of new sheet rock and lots of dried gypsum mud. There used to be painfully red wood panels back there. They hurt Cindy's eyes. They made me almost sterile. But now they're gone. Never to see the light of day again.

I diced up the sheet rock. Dad did the electrical action. We both did the demo and carted off the scraps. Not bad for a weekend's work.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Improvised Colon Grenade

Under normal conditions, I'll pass on greasy food. I'm not usually partial to eating a fast food burger that has been simmering in a puddle of its own juices.

But today wasn't normal. I've been prepping for tomorrow's battle royal with the kitchen wall. Much of my morning was spent in the attic. The airless, sweltering attic. Stripping off tiles and boards from the old roof that was covered with an extended roof when the former owners enclosed the garage. I had to cut through the old roof to get direct access to the ceiling joists.

It wasn't fun. It was brutal. It was sweaty. It was cramped. And dank. So I loved it.

And then, on a ride to Lowe's, I passed Checkers. I haven't eaten a fast food burger that wasn't flame broiled since we moved down here. But it was there and I was hungry. And HOLY JUMPING CHRIST IT WAS GOOD! A triple thick triple cheese Nascar grease bomb with a side of fries that tasted like God Almighty himself fried up for me.

I've spent a long time trying to convince my friends and family of the dangers of fast food. And know I realize why they've been laughing at me for a very long time. I crave another one, already.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This Olde House - Part 2.5

Many times, little things make a difference. Take for example this little project. The subterranean moles that used to own the house not only had an affinity for disgusting paint colors, but they also loathed light. In our bedroom, the ceiling fan didn't have any sort of attachment for light. So I added this subtle little piece to it. And now, we have light. One less thing on my Honey-Do list.

My other experiment with lighting was outside the front door. We used to have a faded, 1960s plastic light that had amassed two inches of gnats under the bulb. I replaced it with a rustic looking piece that had a lot more character and a lot fewer bugs concealed within. (Click to enlarge!)

When I say, "I" did it, it actually means "my Dad." He does the electrical. I do the heavy lifting or demo work. And, of course, everything was picked out by Cindy.

Two projects down. Ten thousand to go.

September 9th

My younger brother celebrated his... um... 34th birthday, today. Mom, Dad, and I went over there for a while. Liam was running a fever, so Cindy stayed home with the kids.

Jason's friends and their kids were there and we all sat outside talking about our adventures and life in post-Katrina Mississippi.

Sadly, I don't remember what we did for Jason's birthday two years ago. I'm not even sure what we did LAST year. It's all a gray fog behind my old eyes.

Sorry, Jay! But I'm sure you'll understand now that you have Morgan to eat up your spare braincells. It's all down hill from here, bro.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

This Olde House - Part 2

Another day of toil and strife. But it we reached all our goals and I'm extremely happy with the results. First up is the next view of the front door. Click to enlarge and you can see the new light switches Dad installed. Notice the lack of raging red wood panels. How about the missing wood trim? All new sheet rock in place and the first layer of mud is down.

Next up is a new view of the long wall stretching toward the kitchen. All new sheet rock. And click to enlarge to see the new outlets along the bottom. It'll look much better once the mud is finished and smoothed and we get to the painting. But even like it is now, we're happier than we were with the wood panel and the red paint job. Maybe it is a trick of the mind, but I think the acoustics have changed. And the lighting is greatly improved.

Remember the white wood paneling around the dining room window and the big thick trim? All better, now. New dry wall in place. A new outlet below it, which isn't visible because of the my camera angle. And some temporary contractor's blinds in place to keep out the voyeurs.

Barely visible at the bottom of the picture (click to enlarge) is the gap that will have to be filled with new cement. I hung the dry wall all the way up to the ceiling, so there's space where the floor needs to be raised. I'm still trying to find a contractor to do that. And I'm not at all happy with the quotes so far. We're talking about a 12' x 15' room here, but the first quote came in at $400 and the second for $550, just for the labor to finish the concrete. The materials alone will be $250!

Finally, a picture of the expanded wall between the dining room and living room. The gap used to be barely ten feet wide. Now is it ten feet. That's my surprised bride about to say something profane!

Still a lot of work to do. The mud has to be skimmed and sanded. We'll probably put up two coats of primer. At least one coat of flat paint. And then the floorboards and crown molding. Sometime thereafter, I'll replace all the ceiling fans.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Her own waves

Cindy called and told me about the scores for Meg's literacy test, today. The average score was around 100 points. Meg scored 133. Even though she's only in Kindergarten, she's already reading on a second grade level.

So, much like her brother, Meg (click the images to enlarge) is well ahead of the game. Five, going on fifteen. And she's turned out to be a magnificent artist. I'll post some of her amazing artwork if I can get a decent picture of it.

This girl doesn't follow in anybody's wake. She's going to make her own waves.

Monday, September 03, 2007

This Olde House - Part 1

Labor Day is supposed to be celebrated mainly as a day of rest and marks the symbolic end of summer for many. At Chateau McDougal, it marked the beginning of This Olde House. A project to overhaul our living and dining rooms, and to re-do the floors in the dining room and kitchen.

The first Before Pic shows an example of 1) the red paint in the living room, 2) the wood panel lurking under the red paint, 3) the Little House On
The Prairie molding that trimmed and cased everything and cleverly accentuated the freakshow red wood panels. IT ALL HAS TO GO!

The second Before Pic shows the white wooden panels in the dining room and the thick wood trim. That ceiling fan is out of there, too. And it doesn't show, but the floor is almost three inches lower in this area. I'll probably have to get it filled with cement and finished to be level with the kitchen and living room. Maybe I can convince Cindy I have cement finishing skills? Well, maybe not.

The third Before Pic is looking from the dining room into the living room. Notice the red wood panel walls? Won't be with us much longer. The trim around the everything? Next on the list. Once the walls are pretty and there is new molding, I'll send those two old school ceiling fans packing. First, though, I'm going to demo the left side archway in the picture and ex
pand it to at least ten feet, maybe twelve. Right now it is only six feet of opening, and it constricts the space. I'm gonna open it up. Let some more light shine through.

* * *

Several hours later. The first After Pic. We've removed all of the trim (Liam was a huge help. He hauled all the pieces outside after I ripped them up.) And we tore down the wood panels on the entryway. That's my Dad on the left. He's measuring to see how wide we can safely make the gap. Thankfully, it is not a load-bearing wall.

That's my Mom on the right. Not sure what she's up to at the moment. But most of her day was spent cleaning up our multitude of messes and bringing us Powerade.

And the second After Pic is looking from the living room toward the dining room. Meg wanted to contribute, so I use here she is. Shortly there after, the wooden studs on the right were removed and the 2 x 10s overhead with them went with them.

It is hard to see, but my father re-wired all of the light switches. For example, the switches to the left of Meg used to to be on only one side of the wall and controlled the ceiling fan in the dining room. Now, there's one switch in each room and each switch has a really cool LED that faintly shines in the dark, so it is easier to find them at night.

And we more doubled the number of electric outlets in both rooms. There used to be only 3 outlets in the living room. Now there are eight. There used to be only two in the dining room. But now there are four. Now we don't have to hunt for power and string extension cords across the floor.

So much for my long, relaxing weekend!